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July 25, 2006

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Mateo

I knew I wasn't the only fan of that podcast! It's terrific, isn't it? It's usually the first podcast I listen to on my drive on mondays.

Mateo

By the way, you don't happen to know if these broadcasts are public domain, do you? Do you have any information on the copyright status of old radio dramas?

HP

Mateo, IANAL, but it's my understanding that mechanical and digital reproductions of Old Time Radio shows are not covered by copyright. Broadcast rights might be a different story. At any rate, people have been collecting and trading these since the days of wire recorders. If the NBC Blue Network wanted to crack down on collectors, they've had 60-odd years to do it.

If you want to find out more, I'd suggest searching on the strings "Old Time Radio" or "OTR." That's the term that collectors use.

Bryan Alexander

I listen to it on my drives as well, Mateo. Especially nice as I motor along Vermont's quite, rural, largely hidden roads, by myself, as trees occlude the sun and shadows lengthen.
Any other spooky podcasts to recommend?

They shouldn't be in public domain yet, Mateo, not for a few more years. As far as I know radio programs are covered by copyright law along the same lines as movies.

Which isn't a good thing, on the balance.

But I don't know of cases whereby the IP holders for old shows have come after Web republishers. Either they don't know, don't care, the works are largely orphans, or - maybe - they've made the smart decision to not oppose free publicity.

HP

Bryan, I think it's not so much the intellectual property as the right to distribute reproductions in non-original media. Think of a movie like "Night of the Living Dead." Anybody can make a digital copy, trade it, or stick a price tag on it and sell it, and it's all perfectly legal.

There's a date -- I'm really hazy on this off the top of my head -- prior to which reproduction rights had to be expressly secured, or you would lose them. The big companies -- Disney, especially -- scrambled to ensure that everything they owned was covered. But smaller companies or orphaned works were left out. This is where budget DVDs come from.

At some point the law was changed, and works created after the grandfathered date have automatic reproduction rights preserved. So, digital or magnetic reproductions of old radio shows would not be covered, unless the IP holder expressly secured those rights.

It's an interesting question, and I can only guess at the answer. I do know that there are commercial operations (OTRCAT.com is one; there are others), producing and selling CD and MP3 discs of radio shows, much like Alpha Video does for DVDs of non-covered movies.

HP

Oh, recommendations:

It's not a podcast per se, but The Zombie Astronaut is a monthly (more-or-less) webzine dedicated to SF and Horror radio shows. Witty, well-informed commentary and downloads. (He was offline for a while, but came back in June, now hosted on Livejournal.) A true internet treasure.

Datajunkie occasionally makes available entire series of shows, which takes a lot of the fun out of it if you ask me. But that's where I got a hold of The Witch's Tale, the show that started it all back in 1931.

OTRFan is a more polished, less dangerous looking site. Some good stuff there, but you have to dig for it.

OTR Plotspot has more science fiction than horror, but a nice selection of weekly downloads.

I subscribe to Tales of Horror, but I prefer the download sites because you don't have to put up with the front and back matter.

Bryan Alexander

IANAL, too, HP. And I appreciate your optimism. They key point, I feel, is what you say about NBC not tracking down potential infringers. Copyright is civil law, nor criminal, and hence is all about who wants to sue whom.

re: copying a piece into other media, this can fall under the header of "performance", which is usually interpreted to last as long as the copyright itself. Now, the non-renewal of copyright is an interesting angle. George Romero was happy to unleash _Night of the Living Dead_ into public domain. I hope classic radio can climb out of the IP abyss this way.

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